“We'll just try to have fun”
The Repsol Honda Team goes to this weekend's Grand Prix of Portugal ready to secure a strong points haul as the 2007 MotoGP World Championship begins its final five races.
With both Dani Pedrosa and defending World Champion Nicky Hayden
in good form following the post-race test at Misano, the factory Honda pair will arrive at the Estoril circuit near Lisbon in positive mood. Both riders will be eager to avoid the sort of bad luck that saw them the innocent victims of a first lap incident at the last race in Italy.
Though Pedrosa's previous race results at Estoril don't quite match up to his own record-breaking standards the Spaniard has proved he has plenty of pace at the 4.182km (2.597-mile) track. He secured pole position on his second visit to Estoril in the 125cc class in 2002 and was on pole again in the 250cc class in 2004.
With an 18- point gap to Valentino Rossi in second place in this year's World Championship, the 21- year-old from Barcelona is determined to put the misfortune of Misano behind him and return to the podium in Portugal.
Hayden arrives at Estoril after a confidence-boosting test following the San Marino Grand Prix. Though like Pedrosa, Hayden's Misano race was ruined on lap one, the following day the 26-year-old American finished second on the timesheets and was the top rider on Michelin tyres, recording impressive lap times on race rubber. With the pressure off Hayden in the championship race, the former dirt-track champion from Owensboro, Kentucky, is looking forward to having some fun this weekend.
Estoril claims the title as the slowest circuit on the Grand Prix calendar with the MotoGP lap record set last season at an average speed of 154km/h (96mph) by Kenny Roberts Jr on the Honda powered KR211V. However the track features a fast start/finish straight which sees the Repsol Hondas hitting speeds of over 320km/h (200mph). The rest of the circuit is dominated by medium and slow corners, particularly the chicane complex preceding the final corner – one of the tightest sections of track on the entire MotoGP world tour. Located close to the Atlantic coast, the circuit is also often affected by strong winds and wet weather.
Last year's race was won in spectacular fashion by the Honda RC211V of Toni Elias who crossed the line just 0.002s ahead of Valentino Rossi after a thrilling battle. Since the first Grand Prix was held at Estoril in 2000, Honda has won five of the seven races, with Valentino Rossi victorious in 2001, 2002 and 2003, Alex Barros taking the honours in 2005 and Elias' brilliant win last year.
The Grand Prix of Portugal takes place on Sunday at 15.00hrs local time.
“It will be really good to get to Estoril and begin working with the team again.
It's so frustrating for everyone when you have a race like the last one at Misano, especially when it's out of your control, and so I know the guys in my garage are as keen as I am to go for the result we deserve in Portugal. My results at this circuit haven't been the best, but I've had a couple of pole positions before and I think that, if we can get the correct package this weekend, we should be able to be competitive. The tyres will be really important again of course and the weather here can really play a part. It rains quite often at this track, but since we've had a lot of rain already this year I hope we get a dry weekend in Portugal – we'll see. Obviously the memories from last year's race are not great but that's behind us now and we'll go into the weekend with the normal approach and try to close the gap to second place in the championship.”
“So we're back in Portugal. It kinda makes me smile now to think about last year when I almost saw my dream of being World Champion go out of the window there. So it would be nice to get a little bit of redemption this weekend. It's been a struggle at times this year and we've had some bad luck and made a few mistakes, so I am excited to go to Estoril and try to turn it around. The weather is always unpredictable which makes Thursday's tyre choice really critical. I think right now the Michelins are quite depended on the weather conditions so we need to work to try to improve that. It would be really nice to roll something out of the truck on Friday morning that was nearly perfect and just have to sweeten it up a little. Though one thing we've learned this year is that our bike takes quite a while to set up – we've really got to dial it in. My guys are doing some good work and we've been making some progress in the last few races. It's not like I'm under the same kind of pressure as last year so we'll just try to have fun, let it roll and see what we can do on Sunday.”